Surprising news: I haven't read a really good historical fiction in awhile! This month's Retreat by Random House Book Club pick is The Midwife of Venice and they're having a chat with author Roberta Rich tonight. Fun! So, I figured it was as good a time as any to finally read this book. I had actually been given it by the publicist when I was interning at Random House earlier this year. She knew what kinds of books I liked and when I was helping her clean out her office bookshelves she thrust a copy at me and said "Read this! You'll like it!" And she was right - I ended really enjoying this novel! Thanks Adria! :)
Here's the synopsis (I've summarized the ridiculously long synopsis that you can find on Goodreads):
Hannah Levi is a sixteenth-century Venetian midwife. A Christian count comes to her home in the Jewish ghetto pleading for her to look after his wife who has been in labour for days and is nearing death. Jews are prohibited from providing medical treatment to Christians but Hannah cannot bear to let the woman die. She negotiates an enormous fee so she can save her husband, Isaac, who has been captured in Malta. Will Hannah save the Countess and the baby? Will she escape persecution? Will Isaac survive as a slave?
This novel was so dramatic but it totally worked. I was on the edge of my seat and was worried about what would happen to the characters. That being said, I kind of wish we didn't get Isaac's point of view. It showed what life was like as a slave in Malta, sure, but it wasn't really necessary. I wish there had been more of Hannah.
I found the historical portions of the novel to be so interesting. I had no idea what a sixteenth century woman, let alone a Jewish midwife, would have to deal with. I knew it was just a story but Rich included so many details that made things realistic and informative. In fact, I'm interested enough to do some more reading on the time period.
I really enjoyed reading The Midwife of Venice but there were a few things that were a little too convenient (things that will give away some details so I'm not mentioning them!) so those things might irk historical fiction fans. These little issues didn't really bother me and I'd still recommend Roberta Rich's debut novel. I'm so excited for the chat tonight. I also cannot wait to read the sequel, The Harem Midwife and find out what happens to the couple!